“I believe that Satan is a liar. The devil will not win.” And with those strong words, the nation witnessed Tabernacle’s counterattack against sin firsthand. More than 4,000 family members, teammates fans and onlookers poured into Pharmed Arena at Florida International University on Dec. 3, to pay their respects to Washington Redskins All-Pro safety Sean Taylor.
The 24-year-old South Florida native was home recovering from a knee injury when four intruders entered his home the morning of Nov. 26. Taylor heard a commotion, grabbed a machete from under his bed and left his bedroom to protect his girlfriend and their 18-month-old daughter. His presence surprised the intruders, and two shots were fired. One bullet missed Taylor entirely, but the other hit Taylor in the femoral artery. The loss of blood was too much for him to overcome.
Despite the tragic circumstances, Pastor David L. Peay Sr. of the Tabernacle Seventh-day Adventist Church focused his attention on the bigger picture. “Why did it take the death of Sean? Isn’t the death of Jesus enough?’’ Peay said in his eulogy. “Shouldn’t the death of Jesus be more than enough to bring you to church? We all loved Sean, but it only says something about us when we put more hope and trust in a mortal man than we will a God that can do any and everything for us.”
As Taylor was growing up in Perrine, Peay served as his pastor, and they remained close until Taylor’s death. That relationship emboldened Peay to push forward and tell the congregation the truth about the Lord rather than sugarcoat the situation. “I know that this is being televised and there are persons who are dignitaries here, but the truth needs to be told. I know there are going to be some people who are going to leave here and will never set foot in another service, so they need to be given the opportunity now, because when the books are open, God is going to say to them you are without excuse.”
Most people did not realize that Taylor had a connection to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but in a crowd that included Rev. Jesse Jackson, the dais was shared by SDA dignitaries such as Pastor Peay; Pastor Hubert Morel, Executive Secretary of the Southeastern Conference, and former Pastor of Perrine; Antowyn Mells, Pastor of the Perrine SDA Church and Lucious Hall, Pastor of the Florida City/Bethel SDA Church.
The music was provided by the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights and the Tabernacle SDA Church Mass Choir, which helped transform this nationally televised memorial into a church service where saving souls was paramount and forgiveness was requested.
Said Pastor Peay, “the four young men that were involved – or allegedly involved in taking the life of Sean – as much as some of us would like to handle matters ourselves, the fact is Jesus is looking to save them too.”
The eulogy shared Taylor’s spiritual journey from his days at the University of Miami to the NFL. There was one encounter at Perrine SDA Church where Pastor Peay and Taylor met in July 2007. As Pastor Peay gave the appeal, Taylor heeded the altar call and as they embraced, Taylor told him, “I know what it looks like, but I’m not far.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, many Redskins such as running back Clinton Portis and Coach Joe Gibbs, spoke of Taylor’s growing maturity and spirituality – especially since the birth of his daughter, Jackie, 18 months ago.
It was Jackie and her mother, also named Jackie, who gave Taylor the strength to face his intruders.
“He gave his life with right decisions,” Peay said. “He laid down his life for his family. Sean was doing what he was supposed to. He wasn’t in the street. He was home.”
And though Sean Taylor, a 24-year-old young man had the entire world in front of him, as Pastor Peay so eloquently put it, “God took Sean’s life to save him.”